The Blacksmith and the Wizard
The following story is from the Moreno district of Calavria, and is one of many similar ones that are commonly told as fireside tales. Variations of it are heard all over the country, though not a great deal in the wider Realm. This is likely because of how the tale is tied into unique the culture of Calavria and in particular its working classes. Many such tales (most with Gebrick as the protagonist or major character) make a gentle mockery of the wizarding or noble classes, though not with any real venom due to the lack of tensions between the lowest and highest classes of Calavria. The tales were humorous in nature, using the Humble God to puncture the pride of a mage who had become egotistical, or a noble who wasn’t as supportive of a local community as they could have been.
A feature of the Moreno region that Benito Vallore preserved when he reproduced the story is the lack of a name given to the protagonist. This is due to a peculiar law put in place by the Lord Ario da Moreno in 300 PF. This lord, renowned for his piety and strict adherence to the Church laws, was horrified by the use of a god in what he regarded as no more than jocular bumpkin stories, and forbade the practise. The yeoman of the region in response have since never named any god in any of their tales, instead alluding to them through symbolism and metaphor. As such, a tale will often start around “a cobbler” or “a merchant” and through the length of the tale be hinted at featuring Gebrick, or one of the god’s earthly servants. Though the law was in practise rarely enforced the tradition seems to have continued up until directly before the Fall.
Now it happened that one day a blacksmith came to a town, and all he had to his name was a little folded cloth such as is used to hold a man’s lunch, with some bread and cheese inside it and an apple in his pocket for his supper. When he reached the town (whose name no-one can rightly recall) he was very surprised at the noise of it, for even on market day he’d never seen it so busy, and he stopped one of the townsfolk to ask what was about.
“Well sir,” said the townsman, “there’s returned a mage who grew up here so the oldsters say, and he’s come back home to settle. Everyone’s astir since he’s been so many places and tells tales so fine of all the things he’s seen, and he’s challenged that anyone who can name a thing he hasn’t seen will get a wish from him – but anyone who fails on three goes has do whatever he says for as long as he wants, and he hasn’t lost yet.”
“Hm!” said the blacksmith, who had been a fair few places himself. “We’ll see about that! I have a mind to speak to this fine gentleman.”
So the two went to the market square, where the mage was holding court among his admirers, sipping wine and listening to a merchant who stood before him. Now this merchant was a well-dressed gentlemen in a silver waistcoat and embroidered hose, but he was sweating something fierce as the mage nodded at him to start asking his questions.
“Well my lord!” said the merchant, “You have travelled many places you say, but I have sailed the seas these seven years, and I wager I’ve seen something you haven’t! Have you ever seen the Fountain of Dolphins at Santhiago?”
“I have,” said the wizard, “and drank from it as I beheld the most beautiful of princesses’ as she sang a ballad of love to a certain mage five years ago.”
“Well, that one was easy I suppose,” said the merchant. “But have you ever seen the golden domes of Kadrasalem in the light of the morning?”
“I have,” said the wizard, “and in the afternoon and evening as well, and in the light of the stars as I left that accursed land to seek the Realms of men once more.”
Now the merchant was sweating more heavily than before. “Aha,” he said, “you have indeed travelled far, but have you gone to the Whispering Well at the Gap of Kordurren and seen the ghost who dwells there?”
“That I have not,” said the wizard, smiling. “Because you made that up. There is no ghost at the Whispering Well.”
The merchant looked none to happy at this and shook his head, walking aside in defeat. The wizard to compare looked well pleased with himself, and asked the crowd “Who else would like to try?”
Now the blacksmith all the while had been standing quiet to watch, but then a thought came to him that mayhaps if he could win the contest with the arrogant wizard he might secure a promise that was sore needed somewhere. So he stepped out and said “I will.”
Then the wizard laughed, since the blacksmith was dressed good enough, but not fancy, and he had only his lunch and clothes to his name. “Leave off, fellow, there is nothing you can name that I have not seen. I will wager a chest of gold you can’t name a single place more than ten miles hence!”
At this the crowd laughed, but the blacksmith stood quiet and only said, “I’ll take the bet, on top of the promise, though I don’t hold much with gambling. Now I’d like to see how I do, if you please.”
The wizard shook his head. “Well, I won’t stop you, though it might be better if I did. Ask away, smithy.”
So the blacksmith stood in the circle and shuffled his feet, thinking a while, until the wizard got impatient and said, “Much more silence and I’ll say the contest is forfeit, and the wager to.”
At that the blacksmith said, “Well, I wouldn’t want that. Now my lord, have you by chance seen the Green See of the Iron Empire, where nothing lives but the See Dragon with his scales all made of steel and his eyes like wheels of fire?”
At this the crowd grew quiet and the wizard ground his teeth, since he’d already lost the bet, but he still managed a reply. “I have indeed seen the dragon, and taken an emerald from his horde, the Green See emerald.” And he held up a green stone as big as a bowl.
Then the blacksmith was quiet a bit more, since he hadn’t expected the wizard to say yes, but he went on and asked another. “That was quite a feat, but have you seen the Holt in the deepwoods of Andermark, where the Dancers are?”
And the wizard laughed. “I have, master blacksmith, and I stood in the Dancers at midsummer’s eve to see the moonrise, which no-one else can boast of.”
“Well, as to that I’m not so sure,” said the blacksmith, though he was quiet after since that had been the best question he could think of and he was starting to wonder if his stepping up had been a good idea. But after a while the wizard said, “Come on, you’ve asked two and I’ve answered two, now say your third and I’ll answer that soon. I’ll give the gold, but a word from me will see it returned once I’ve won this wager.”
Then the blacksmith stuck his hands in his pocket and thought deep, wanting to humble the wizard a sore amount but not sure what to ask. But as he did this his right hand brushed the apple he’d take for his supper, and an idea came to him and he spoke up.
“Well sir I see you have indeed travelled far, but I think I know a site you’ve never seen and if so, you’re to take those well-travelled boots of yours to a village that’s an hour’s walk from this town and offer your humble service to them, for as long as they need it, and you’ll take that chest of gold to them as well and all, for my house there.”
The wizard scowled at that and would have said something sharp, but there was a way about the blacksmith as he stood there that made the magic user sore cautious about doing so and so he just said sourly “I will if you do, but if you don’t I’ll have that chest of gold back and you as well, and you and I can talk a while about all these sights you know about, master blacksmith.”
“Done and done!” cried the blacksmith.
“And done!” said the wizard, though there was a ticklish feeling in his stomach that said he might have dealt unwisely. “Ask away, and remember the wager.”
“Well I do,” said blacksmith and then he drew the apple from his pocket and held it out, asking his question.
“Have you seen the pip of this, master mage?”
At this the wizard started to laugh, then he stopped, then his face swelled up like a toad as he choked on his words. For no-one has ever seen the pip of an apple before it’s cut!
Eventually the mage calmed down and said that he hadn’t, and so the wager was won and the promise too. Now the mage was of a mind to duck both, but the blacksmith stuck to him something fierce through the day so eventually he gave in and followed with the chest of gold out of the town to a little village an hour’s walk away. And well that he did, for when he went over the rise near it he saw that the village was torn about something fierce from a storm that had passed through not a day before. At this sight he went to turn to blacksmith for explanation, but the blacksmith was nowhere to be seen – though there was a similar sort of figure walking into a little chapel near the village green, with a scythe nailed over its door.
So the mage kept his promise and helped rebuild the village, and the chest of gold was used to repair and furnish the little chapel, with the rest going to villagers and their businesses. And it’s said that since then the village has prospered on the gold and grown to three times its size from then, and in the centre of it now is a stone statue of the humbled mage, near the chapel in the green. But the scythe on it rusted away a long time ago, so now there is only a blacksmith’s hammer above the door.